A dog named Nu-Wood: the story of The Bus People.Posted: December 15, 2011
My siblings and I grew up outside of Carlton, Minnesota, a small town just south of Duluth. There was a 12-year age range between the six of us, oldest to youngest, so often we would all play together. Our parents would join in the fun; we were (and are still) a playful bunch.
One Christmas, I think it was 1966, our younger siblings received a gift that would become part of family folklore: a Fisher-Price “Little People” School Bus. For those of you unfamiliar with this, the website muppet.wikia.com offers this description:
In the 1960s, toy company Fisher-Price began producing its popular line of Little People — small figures of people and dogs with cylindrical bodies which fit into specially made vehicles and buildings. The first Little People set was a school bus, with human characters who fit inside circular holes. The original Little People figures were made of wood, with plastic vehicles and buildings; later, the figures would be made of plastic as well. The Little People toys were an instant success, and the school bus was soon followed by more sets.
Later on the young’uns also got the “Little People” house and farm, each with its own set of peeps. Despite that, though, they are known evermore in our family folklore as “The Bus People.”
As mentioned, we all played with them. Sometimes, in fact, even WITH the age-appropriate kids they were meant for.
The Bus People acquired names, backstories, and personalities. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa… those were obvious.
My sister Shonna named the scowly little boy with the sideways ball cap “Butch,” after the rowdy neighbor kid who lived across the road. Later our brother Mike renamed him “Randy,” after another rowdy neighbor kid. Later still, Fisher-Price reconfigured him with a smile instead of a sneer. I wonder if he inspired the whole sideways/backwards ball cap thing in the 80s and 90s.
This kid was cool too. He became known as “Pan-Head.” Why a pan? I’m sure there’s a story behind that. But still, it’s certainly preferable to “Pot-Head.”
But the little dog became “Nu-Wood.” According to a Fisher-Price collectors’ website (yes, there are several of them. You’re not surprised, are you?) the dog’s official name was “Lucky.” Some dogs are apparently named “Snoopy” based on the name written on the doghouse pictured on the back wall of the Little People house. Ours was named “Nu-Wood,” and he’s still my favorite.
Why Nu-Wood? We think Shonna was the one who named him that. The next town over from Carlton was Cloquet, which housed a factory owned by Wood Conversion Company. Ownership changed hands many times after awhile, but back then Wood Conversion was one of the area’s biggest employers; many of the neighbor kids’ dads and school classmates’ dads worked there.
One of Wood Conversion’s mainstay products was a decorative pressed-wood insulating material called… you guessed it… Nu-Wood. There’s a good reason Nu-Wood isn’t currently a household word. Apparently, it sucked as an insulating material. But the name was mentioned all the time in our neighbors’ homes, and apparently Shonna liked the sound of it.
I wrote Shonna the other day that it still astounds me that, after forty-five years, neither I nor any of our sibs have ever named a dog Nu-Wood. Maybe someday.